Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2013.
As part of our 2013 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.
Team: Virginia Tech Hokies
Opponent: Pittsburgh Panthers
Last Year: Loss, 35-17 at Pittsburgh
This Year: October 12 vs. Pittsburgh
Of Virginia Tech’s six losses last season, just two were close games, but unfortunately, the Hokies won’t get a crack at either of those teams (Florida State and Cincinnati) this season. But despite the 18-point margin, last year’s loss to Pittsburgh still holds plenty of importance. Going into the game, Tech was 2-0, looking impressive as always on defense. The Panthers, on the other hand, were 0-2 following two straight embarrassing efforts. The two teams were not conference foes just yet, but the excitement was there for the Pitt faithful, looking forward to the first of many annual matchups with Virginia Tech. And then suddenly, Pittsburgh was up 21-3 at halftime, and they never looked back.
It was the first sign of trouble for the Hokies; a hint they wouldn’t be up to the standard they’ve set since arriving in the ACC by winning at least 10 games in each season from 2004 through 2011. The contest was an absolute disaster, especially offensively. Tech had just 14 first downs, only picked up 324 yards (just 59 rushing) and committed four turnovers. No one knew it yet, but Pitt had just written the book on how to dominate the 2012 iteration of the Hokies (ball control and pressure Logan Thomas); a formula that would be repeated several more times last fall.
Now a divisional rivalry game (we’ll use the term “rivalry” loosely between these two for now), there’s certainly going to be a ramped-up intensity when Tech and Pitt face off in Blacksburg this October. The Hokies will be coming off two very tough games against North Carolina and Georgia Tech. In contrast, Pitt plays Duke and Virginia prior to this matchup. If things play out poorly, both could already be fighting for their Coastal division lives. If they go well early on, this could be a battle for Coastal supremacy in mid-October. Regardless, the Hokies do hold an edge in this matchup — Pitt must replace a ton of pieces on offense, including a starting quarterback, two running backs and a leading receiver. With another year of experience under their belts, the Virginia Tech offensive line should be better, allowing Thomas more time to pass and overall, taking the pressure of him to make plays that aren’t there. If Tech can cut down on mistakes and play their game (ball control, ball-hawking on defense), they should be able to exact a little payback on Pitt without much difficulty.